Monday, January 22, 2007

(Lest any reader that may stray across my blog will think that what follows is showing off, let me make it clear that whatever language skills I once possessed have now entirely left me, and Bambara is still, after on and off a year here, uncharted territory.)

De temps en temps when I feel far from home I go and sit on the roof at night alone with a dark rum and ice and try to hold on to Europe. I recite the few poems I know by heart which to me represent l'Europe aux anciens parapets.. Yes, Rimbaud's Bateau Ivre, but I still don't know the whole marvellous stark crazy poem by heart, only a third or so. To me the water in the poem has become the river Niger, although it always was, ever since I first started learning it last winter, when we floated down from Djenne to Mopti punted by our piroguiers...
....comme je descendis les fleuves impassibles je ne me sentis plus guidee par les haleurs/ les peaux-rouges criards les avaient pris pour cibles, les ayant cloues nus aux poteaux de couleurs./ J'etais insoucieux de tous les equipages/ les porteurs de ble flamand ou de coton Anglais/ quand des haleurs ont fini ces tapages, les fleuves m'ont laisse descendre ou je voulais./Dans les clapotements furieux des marees, moi, l'autre hiver, plus sourd que les cerveaux d'enfants je courus/ et les peninsules demarres n'ont pas subi tohu-bohu plus triomphant...

Then I bring out the other volume from my little virtual library: Goethe's Faust, and start making sure I haven't forgotten the Zueignung:
' Ihr naht euch wieder schwankende Gestalten, die fruh sich einst dem truben blick gezeigt/ Versuch ich wohl euch diesmahl festzuhalten? Fuhl ich mein Herz noch jenem Wahn geneigt?/ Ihr drangt euch zu, nun gut, so mogt Ihr walten, wie Ihr aus Dunst und Nebel um mich steigt./ Mein Herz, es fuhlt sich jugendlich erschuttert, vom Zauberhauch, der eurem Zug umwittert./ Ihr bringt mit euch die Bilder froher Tage/ un d manche liebe Schatten steigen auf:/ Gleich einer alten, halbverklungnen Sage, kommt ersten Lieb' und Freundschaft mit herauf...
culminating in some of the most sublime words I know:
'was ich besitze seh ich wie im Weiten, und was verschwand wird mir zu Wirklichkeiten'. (What I possess I see as if at a great distance, and what disappeared becomes my reality'.)

And then, well on my way by now, I return to the virtual library, making sure there is some English too, I bring out the Milton from my O-levels:
'Weep no more woeful shepherds, weep no more: for Lycidas, your sorrow, is not dead./ Sunk though he be beneath the watery floor, so sinks each day the day-star in the ocean bed,/ and yet anon repairs his drooping head, and tricks his beams and with new-spangled ore/ flames in the forehead of the morning sky./ So Lycidas sank low but mounted high, through the dear might of Him that walked the waves.

II don't quite know what links these three fragments. The first two have an element of abandonment ? The first and the last are triumphant.

Those are some of the dearest of my European treasures- and they will continue to be brought out, admired, polished, and used to recharge the mysterious glands where hope, joy and dreams recide and their potency will never fade. Then they will be put back in the virtual safe until needed again. Posted by Picasa


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